TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 crashed in a Taiwan river Wednesday morning, killing at least 26 people, including the pilot and two co-pilots.
The flight, which went down shortly after it took off from Taipei Songshang Airport at 10:52 a.m., veered out of control on its way to the island of Kinmen, located in the Chinese province of Xiamen, and crashed into the Keelung River. According to official Taiwan news agency CNA, 53 people were on board the plane when the crash happened.
"Rescue works continued after midnight, and the bodies of the pilot Liao Chien-tsung, co-pilot Liu Tzu-chung and flight engineer Hung Ping-chung were retrieved after the fuselage and other parts of the plane, which was broken into three pieces and burrowed into the riverbed, were pulled out of the river," CNA wrote.
CNA also reported that the aircraft, an ATR72-600 turbo-prop plane, had 31 mainland Chinese tourists on board. Of the 53 on board, 26 were confirmed dead, 15 were injured, and 12 were unaccounted for as of midnight Taiwan time on Thursday.
According to Wall Street Journal, Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said on Wednesday that the control tower lost communication with the pilots four minutes after taking off from Songshang Airport. However, authorities have managed to retrieve the black box data recorder and have started to decode it.
"The Aviation Safety Council, which is in charge of the investigation, declined to give an estimated time of when an initial report would be released," Hsu, Liu and Poon wrote. "In the past, a preliminary analysis from the recorder has taken anywhere from days to weeks."
The Wall Street Journal reported that drivers managed to capture dramatic images of the plane crash through dashboard cameras. The footage, which showed the plane clipping an overpass before plunging into the river, was quickly shared on social media within hours of the crash.
"The crash adds to fears about air safety in Asia following several aviation disasters in the region in 2014," Hsu, Liu and Poon wrote.
According to the Wall Street Journal, local TV footage showed rescuers using a crane to lift the aircraft's fuselage from the river. It also showed rescuers using rubber dinghies to carry the survivors to safety and the bodies to the shore.
"We are also very eager to find out why this happened to such a new aircraft," TransAsia Chief Executive Peter Chen said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
TransAsia claimed that the plane involved in the crash was delivered last April. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that when it was delivered to TransAsia, one of the engines functioned improperly and had to be immediately replaced with a new one.
The Wall Street Journal reported that it was TransAsia's second fatal accident in less than a year. However, no one from TransAsia or Taiwan's aviation authority have suggested possible causes for the crash yet.